United states securities_and_exchange_v_middleton_et_al__nyedce-19-04625__0001.0
Marc P. Berger
Lara S. Mehraban
John O. Enright
Jorge G. Tenreiro
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
New York Regional Office
200 Vesey Street, Suite 400
New York, New York 10281-1022
(212) 336-9145 (Tenreiro)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION, :
Plaintiff, : 19 Civ.
- against - : ECF Case
REGINALD (“REGGIE”) MIDDLETON, : Complaint
VERITASEUM, INC., and : Jury Trial Requested
VERITASEUM, LLC, :
Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”), for its Complaint
against Defendants Veritaseum, LLC and Veritaseum, Inc. (collectively “Veritaseum”) and
Reginald Middleton (“Middleton,” together with Veritaseum, “Defendants”) alleges as follows:
1. This is an emergency action to stop the Defendants’ further dissipation of the
approximately $8 million of investor proceeds that remain from the approximately $14.8 million
they fraudulently raised in 2017 and early 2018 in an offering of digital securities. Defendants—
a Brooklyn-based self-described financial guru and two companies he controls—raised the $14.8
million by making material misrepresentations and omissions about the unregistered securities
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they offered: digital assets called “VERI Tokens,” “VERI,” or “Veritas.” Defendants conducted
this offering in a so-called initial coin offering (“ICO”) that took place from April 25, 2017 to
May 26, 2017, and in post-ICO offers and sales (the “Offering”).
2. Among other things, Defendants knowingly misled investors about their prior
business venture and the use of offering proceeds; touted outsized—but fictitious—investor
demand for VERI; and claimed to have a product ready to generate millions of dollars of
revenue, when no such product existed; placed a series of manipulative trades in VERI Tokens to
increase their price and to induce investors to buy more tokens; and misappropriated investor
assets beginning during the ICO phase of the offering.
3. From April 25, 2017 to May 26, 2017, Defendants began fraudulently selling
VERI in an unregistered offering of 51 million of the 100 million VERI they had minted on the
Ethereum blockchain and controlled. Defendants pegged the value of VERI to the digital asset
ether (“ETH”) on a 30-to-1 scale, such that investors bought VERI during the ICO phase of the
offering at the value of 1/30th of ETH, or $1.60 to $8. Defendants’ Offering continued after the
purported end of the ICO, through at least February 2018.
4. To skirt the federal securities laws’ registration requirements, Middleton
attempted to refashion VERI variously as “pre-paid fees” or “software,” and likened them to gift
cards. In reality, VERI are securities, as the substance of the Offering shows, including, for
example, in Middleton’s statements that “today’s roughly $3.30 purchase of VERI tokens could
yield ($3.30 x 5,000%) = $165” and that “purchase of Veritas goes directly to fund” the business.
5. To induce purchases during the ICO phase of the offering, Defendants told
potential investors that Veritaseum had products ready to go to market that would replace
brokers, banks, and hedge funds. Defendants also assuaged concerns that Defendants could
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“dump” unsold VERI into the market after their purchases by telling investors that unsold VERI
would only be for sales to “buy-side institutions.” After the ICO phase, but while they were still
selling VERI to investors, Defendants continued to promise to limit their own VERI sales, while
touting fictitious deals that had purportedly netted $35 million and were increasing VERI’s price.
6. As Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded, these statements were all false.
There were no products “ready to ship” or that would net millions in revenue or replace financial
institutions; Defendants did not sell anywhere near the $35 million in VERI they claimed they
had sold post-ICO. Nor did they limit their post-ICO sales to institutional buyers; instead, they
were selling the remaining VERI to anyone who would buy it—largely individuals and in the
secondary market—and were using VERI to compensate employees, pay debts, and for personal
expenses, among other things.
7. Moreover, after the ICO phase, Middleton placed a series of secret, manipulative
trades in VERI on a digital asset platform, artificially increasing VERI’s price by approximately
315% during just one day of trading. He then touted these price increases and returns to VERI
holders, stating, for example, that because VERI was “up 33.51x from its April 25th initial sales
price [,] [s]ome prescient folk are quite happy.” Middleton also misappropriated for his own
personal and undisclosed use at least $520,000 of the amounts raised in the Offering.
8. The Offering was an illegal offering—there was no registration statement filed or
in effect for the offers and sales of VERI, and no exemption from registration applied.
9. In August 2018, Defendants began purchasing precious metal with the proceeds
of the Offering. These commodities purportedly supported new tokens sold by Defendants
called “VeGold,” which were redeemable for physical precious metal or for ETH. Defendants
used Offering proceeds to purchase the precious metals indirectly sold to new purchasers. In
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addition, the ETH proceeds from the VeGold sales flowed directly to an account in the name of
Middleton at an online digital asset trading platform.
10. On July 30, 2019, the day Commission staff informed Defendants’ counsel that
the staff was likely to recommend that the Commission approve the filing of an enforcement
action against Defendants, and on July 31, 2019, Defendants moved more than $2 million in
remaining Offering proceeds from a blockchain address they controlled into other addresses, and
used a portion of those funds to purchase more precious metals.
11. Commission staff requested, through counsel, that Defendants voluntarily agree
not to engage in further dissipation of the Offering proceeds, including through the purchase of
precious metals. Defendants, through counsel, declined the staff’s request.
12. By engaging in the conduct set forth in this Complaint, Defendants engaged in
securities fraud in violation of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) [15
U.S.C. § 77q(a)], of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”)
[15 U.S.C. § 78j(b)] and Rule 10b-5 thereunder [17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5]; and in the unregistered
sale and offer to sell securities in violation of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act [15
U.S.C. §§ 77e(a), 77e(c)]. Middleton also engaged in the manipulation of securities prices in
violation of Section 9(a)(2) of the Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. § 78i(a)(2)].
13. Unless Defendants are permanently restrained and enjoined, they will continue to
engage in the acts, practices, and courses of business set forth in this Complaint and in acts,
practices, and courses of business of similar type and object.
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NATURE OF THE PROCEEDING AND RELIEF SOUGHT
14. The Commission brings this action pursuant to the authority conferred upon it by
Section 20 of the Securities Act [15 U.S.C. § 77t(b)] and Sections 21(d)(1) and (d)(5) of the
Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. §§ 78u(d)(1) & (d)(5)].
15. The Commission seeks, (1) as emergency and preliminary relief: an order (a)
freezing Defendants’ assets, (b) prohibiting Defendants from destroying or altering documents,
and (c) appointing an independent third-party intermediary to secure Defendants’ digital assets
and directing Defendants to transfer digital assets under their control to an address designated by
the intermediary; (2) an emergency order permitting the Commission to conduct expedited
discovery; and (3) a final judgment: (a) permanently enjoining the Defendants from engaging in
the acts, practices, and courses of business alleged herein; (b) ordering Defendants to disgorge
their ill-gotten gains and to pay prejudgment interest thereon; (c) prohibiting Defendant
Middleton, pursuant to Section 20(e) of the Securities Act [15 U.S.C. § 77t(e)] and Section
21(d)(2) of the Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(2)], from acting as an officer or director of
any public company; (d) prohibiting Defendants, pursuant to Section 21(d)(5) of the Exchange
Act [15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(5)], from participating in an offering of digital asset securities; and (e)
imposing civil money penalties on Defendants pursuant to Section 20(d) of the Securities Act [15
U.S.C § 77t(d)] and Section 21(d)(3) of the Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(3)].
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
16. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, Sections
20(b), 20(d) and 22 of the Securities Act [15 U.S.C. §§ 77t(b), 77t(d), and 77v], and Sections
21(d), 21(e), and 27 of the Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. §§ 78u(d), 78u(e), and 78aa]. Defendants,
directly or indirectly, have made use of the means or instruments of transportation or
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communication in, and the means or instrumentalities of, interstate commerce, or of the mails, in
connection with the transactions, acts, practices, and courses of business alleged herein.
17. Venue is proper in the Eastern District of New York pursuant to Section 27 of the
Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. § 78aa]. Among other things, Middleton resides in this District,
conducted much of the activity alleged in this complaint on behalf of the Defendants in this
District, and Defendants’ false and misleading statements and fraudulent schemes were made to
the public at large, including in this District.
18. Middleton, age 51, resides in Brooklyn, New York. Middleton formed
Veritaseum, Inc. in 2014 and Veritaseum, LLC in 2017. He is both companies’ sole owner.
Middleton is a self-styled financial “guru” who in 2007 began a blog making predictions about
publicly-traded companies; he claims to have foreseen the financial crisis and the collapse of
Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.
19. Veritaseum, Inc., is a corporation incorporated in New York in 2014.
20. Veritaseum, LLC, is a Delaware limited liability company organized in April
2017, with a principal place of business in New York, New York. Veritaseum, LLC is the de
facto successor entity to Veritaseum, Inc.
21. Middleton dominated Veritaseum, Inc. and Veritaseum LLC such that they were
his alter egos at all relevant times.
RELATED INDIVIDUALS AND ENTITIES
22. Employee One, age 18, has worked for Veritaseum since 2017.
23. Investor One, age 63, resides in Los Angeles, California, and is a public figure.
In late June 2017, Investor One loaned $1 million to Defendants’ business.
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24. Veritaseum Assets (“Ve Assets”), is a Delaware Limited Liability Company
formed in 2018. Ve Assets appears to be a de facto successor entity to Veritaseum LLC,
advertising the same products advertised for both Veritaseum, Inc. and Veritaseum LLC. Ve
Assets currently appears to be offering cryptographic tokens that purport to represent interests in
precious-metal holdings. Middleton is Ve Assets’ principal.
BACKGROUND ON DIGITAL TOKENS OR COINS
25. An ICO is a fundraising event in which an entity offers participants a unique
“coin” or “token” issued on a “blockchain” or cryptographically-secured ledger, in exchange for
consideration (often in the form of digital assets or fiat currency).1
26. ICOs are typically announced and promoted through public online channels. To
participate, investors are generally required to transfer funds to the issuer’s address, online
wallet, payment processor, or other account. During or after the completion of the ICO, the
issuer will distribute its unique coin or token to the participants’ unique address on the
blockchain. In some instances, the coins or tokens may continue to be offered and sold by the
issuer after the ICO has been completed. Often the tokens trade in secondary markets.
A blockchain is a type of distributed ledger, or peer-to-peer database spread across a network,
that records all transactions in the network in unchangeable, digitally-recorded data packages called
blocks. Each block contains a batch of records of transactions, including a timestamp and a reference to
the previous block, linking the blocks together in a chain. The system relies on cryptographic techniques
for secure recording of transactions. A blockchain can be shared and accessed by anyone with
appropriate permissions. The Bitcoin blockchain is an example of a “non-permissioned,” or public and
open-access blockchain. “Permissioned” or private blockchains require permissioned servers to be
approved to participate on the network or to access particular information on the blockchain. Blockchains
or distributed ledgers can also record what are called smart contracts, which essentially are computer
programs designed to execute the terms of a contract when certain triggering conditions are met.
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A. Veritaseum, Inc. and Middleton’s First Fundraising Efforts
27. Sometime around the end of 2013 or early 2014, Middleton began to hold himself
out as an innovator in the area of FinTech (an abbreviation for financial technology), claiming in
social media posts and websites that he had developed a technology that would revolutionize the
financial markets. The crux of Middleton’s claim was that his software permitted “peer to peer
exchanges of value” using a blockchain.
28. In an early and publicly available brochure for this software (“Brochure 1”),
which he initially called “UltraCoin” and later called “Veritaseum Value Trading” (the “Bitcoin
Software”), Middleton stated that “UltraCoin enables individuals & corporations (the Davids) of
all sizes and incomes to level the playing field with Global institutions (the Goliaths) such as
29. Brochure 1 claimed that Veritaseum, Inc.’s “Potential Market LITERALLY
Boggles the Mind!” in that “We Get a Potential Market of . . . $225,520,000,000,” which could
yield “well over a BILLION dollars in annual cashflow [sic],” such that “UltraCoin is valued
over $20,000,000,000, ” and that Veritaseum, Inc. was “the only one with a functional product,
not to mention the only one ready to bring a product to market,” and a “Renown [sic] CEO
proven to have the pulse of both finance and technology market booms and busts.”
30. Another publicly available brochure (“Brochure 2”) touted Veritaseum’s access to
“$1.635+ Quadrillion – Literally the Market of All Money” and “Cumulative Revenues” as “The
Shape Every Investor Wants to See,” and that Veritaseum was “Ready to go to market! NOW!”
31. A third publicly available brochure (“Brochure 3”) stated that “With Veritaseum,
one can literally tweet an entire trade, or click a Friend on Facebook to take the other side of a
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short Goldman long Facebook trade.” Brochure 3 said that the Bitcoin Software offers the
“ability to do practically everything your bank and brokerage offers through your browser.”
32. Middleton drafted the marketing materials for the brochures, which bore his name
and picture and the “Veritaseum” logo.
33. Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded that many of the statements in these
brochures were false. Middleton was working on software to emulate swaps, but it was not true
that the Bitcoin Software was “ready to go to market now,” that it was a substitute for banks or
brokerages, or that it permitted access to trillions of capital markets or billions in revenue.
34. Around this time, Middleton filed certain patent applications concerning the
Bitcoin Software on behalf of Veritaseum, Inc., but they were never approved by any jurisdiction
in which they were filed. To the contrary, in August of 2015, Middleton received a preliminary
opinion from an international patent office stating that the Bitcoin Software “lack[ed] novelty.”
35. By October 2016, Middleton had raised approximately $470,000 for “Class B”
shares of stock in Veritaseum, Inc., and thousands worth in Bitcoin from investors in exchange
for “Colored Coins,” a particular way of encoding encrypted assets on the Bitcoin blockchain—
all monies presumably raised to fund his development of the Bitcoin Software.
36. In early 2017, Middleton announced the end of his Bitcoin Software venture due
to “regulatory concerns,” although in reality Middleton’s venture had failed because he lacked
the ability to deliver on the lofty promises he had made and because he had run out of money.
37. During the Offering, Middleton also offered to redeem the Class B shares and
Colored Coins in exchange for VERI, and did redeem most Colored Coins for VERI.
B. The Unregistered Fraudulent Offering
38. In early 2017, Middleton formed Veritaseum, LLC and appropriated Veritaseum,
Inc.’s business concept—i.e., a purported platform that would enable swap-like transactions. But
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instead of smart contracts written on the Bitcoin blockchain, Middleton purported to develop the
software via smart contracts written on the Ethereum blockchain.
39. Middleton eventually began calling this product, or other products he purported to
seek to develop on the Ethereum blockchain, the “VeADIR” (pronounced like “Vader”).
40. On April 1, 2017, in a post on the Veritaseum website (which was styled as a
blog) (the “Blog”), Middleton wrote a post entitled “What is the Value Proposition for Veritas?”
The post included a link to a “Veritas deal sheet” (the “Term Sheet”), which was shared on the
Veritaseum website in multiple posts and, later, on Twitter.
41. On April 3, 2017, Middleton announced from a Twitter account named
“Veritaseum UltraCoin” that it was “ground zero” for the “Veritas Offering.”
42. In subsequent pre-Offering Tweets, Middleton directed readers to: (i) a Google
“crowdsale presentation” (the “Google Presentation”); (ii) a series of YouTube videos explaining
“Why buy Veritas?”; and (iii) the Term Sheets (the “Offering Documents”).
43. The Term Sheet explained that 51 million of 100 million minted VERI Tokens
were available, and Middleton explained in a YouTube video that the maximum offering was for
“$160,000,000” and that purchasers could buy as little or as much VERI as they wanted.
44. As the Term Sheet explained, the price of VERI during the ICO phase would be
pegged to the value of the digital asset known as ETH, such that 1 ETH token entitled a
purchaser to 30 VERI subject to discounts during the first approximately 11 days of the Offering.
Given the changing value of ETH between April 25, 2017, and May 26, 2017, VERI tokens sold
for the equivalent of between $1.60 and $8 during the Offering’s ICO phase.
45. On April 24, 2017, Middleton tweeted that VERI tokens would be on sale the next
day, and, on April 25, he sent an email blast announcing that VERI was available for sale.
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46. Middleton also announced the start of the Offering on a website called “Bitcoin
Talk” on April 26, 2017, linking to the Offering Documents, and announcing a “bounty
program.” Under the bounty program, Middleton promised to pay individuals up to 50,000
VERI tokens (which he stated was the equivalent of $104,000) to website users for making blog
posts, Tweets, or Facebook posts touting VERI.
47. Defendants sold approximately 1.9 million VERI tokens during the ICO phase,
raising approximately 69,000 ETH (or $14.8 million, at the time).
48. Defendants continued selling VERI after the purported end of the ICO phase,
selling thousands of VERI through July 6, 2017, and smaller amounts through at least February
2018, during which Defendants raised an additional nearly $2.6 million from investors.
49. All sales after May 26, 2017, were purportedly offered at a 10% premium to the
last five listed prices on the online digital asset platform EtherDelta.
50. Defendants made other post-ICO transfers of VERI, including as an exchange for
services and/or as compensation to employees and to holders of Colored Coins.
(a) Defendants Market VERI as an Investment into Defendants’ Enterprise
51. In an attempt to circumvent the federal securities laws’ registration requirements,
Defendants frequently claimed, both before and during the Offering, that because of “regulatory
concerns” they were not in fact “offering securities.”
52. Notwithstanding these statements, the substance of what Defendants were
offering and selling—investments in VERI tokens—was plain. VERI purchasers would have
reasonably expected to profit from Defendants’ efforts—or “to make money,” as Middleton
starkly stated on YouTube.
53. First, Defendants encouraged purchasers to tender money (primarily in the form
of digital assets) to obtain their VERI tokens. They explained that the Blog had “an explicit link
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for the crowd sale . . . a link for Ethereum purchases, for ETH, Ethereum, there is a page for
purchasing through Bitcoin,” and encouraged buyers to “wire” fiat currencies as well.
54. Second, Defendants conveyed that investors’ monies would be pooled into a
common enterprise. The Term Sheet, for example, stated that the “Use of digital assets” would
be “Research and Development 30%; Sales . . . 30%; Operations 13%; Legal: 10%; Reserves:
10%, DAO liquidity provisions: 7%.” Similarly, Middleton stated in an April 3, 2017 YouTube
video, “We have the tools, we have IP that we own, we have the beginning, and with your
assistance, this initial coin offering, we will have the funding to make it a reality.” Middleton
also told one Veritaseum, Inc. investor, who asked how the ICO related to his Veritaseum, Inc.
shares, that the ICO was intended to provide the enterprise “working capital.”
55. Third, Defendants led purchasers to expect profits from their VERI purchasers
because of Defendants’ managerial expertise. For example, Middleton repeatedly touted his
claimed expertise in predicting watershed technological and financial developments, describing
in the Term Sheet and other fora the supposed Veritaseum “Team” and their expected efforts to
“bring value.” On May 8, 2017, he also posted that investors could profit from their token
purchases as follows: “today’s roughly $3.30 purchase of VERI tokens could yield ($3.30 x
56. Defendants made myriad other such statements before and during the ICO phase
of the Offering. For example, Defendants:
a. Noted on the Blog and in a separate article on a website called “ZeroHedge”
that “[t]hose who invested in bitcoin at its inception and held on enjoyed
1,450% return”; that “Ethereum and Dash” had “outperformed bitcoin in ROI
[Return on Investment],” but that VERI was “the best of both worlds,” such
that “Veritaseum seeks to maximize economic profit, not just the value of the
token for actual or potential investors”; and that Veritaseum would potential
deliver 5,000% returns;
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b. Explained to viewers in a series of YouTube videos introducing the Offering
that their “purchase of Veritas goes directly to fund the transformation of
finance” and that “when you purchase Veritas, you create, you fund, the
decentralization of this central authority;” that “since Veritas should be or will
be a scarce commodity, the more people that come in, the more entities that
come in, the more users of Veritas, the greater the demand for Veritas and the
more valuable the Veritas is”; and that once potential institutional investors
“start looking at these numbers, 30,000% returns . . . negative correlation of
assets, there’s going to be a flood, when that flood comes in” there will be
“higher demand” for VERI;
c. Touted in a May 19, 2017 video “30,000x” returns in the ICO space, and
answered an interviewer’s question about how to make money with Veritas by
saying: “There’s a couple of ways . . . you redeem [the token] to Reggie
Middleton or Veritaseum . . . or you can take this token and you can buy
access to one of the financial machines . . . or you can take the token and you
can speculate, which is not what we are selling or recommending, but
speculation is speculation, so if you think it’s going to go up, just like a
Walmart card, you think a Walmart gift card might be worth more, you can do
it . . . Walmart is not selling you a security, you are choosing to speculate on
d. Stated in a series of posts on Bitcoin Forum that Middleton was “going to try
very hard to bring the hedge fund community in with [him] as buy side
investors,” and that “[n]ot too long after the end of our offering, [Middleton]
will go on a very aggressive valuation tour, valuing and evaluating most
prominent concerns and the platforms they are written on top of, in this
e. Answered a user question in a YouTube video about how many VERI tokens
were needed “to invest in Veritaseum,” by stating: “I don’t know if the word
invest is appropriate . . . we are not selling investments, I’ve said that often
and I’m going to say that over and over and over, because we could get in a
lot of trouble if it appears that we are selling investments, and I am not, we are
selling technology, the technology will allow you to make peer to peer
investments . . . the [VERI] Tokens will be . . . the medium for participating in
the DAO [Decentralized Autonomous Organization], you send the tokens to
the DAO, ok, the DAO would then give you a pro-rata exposure, depending
on how many you share, and it will do its thing, after our pre-determined
period . . . it will then divvy up and give pro-rata profits and losses to all . . .
VERITAS token holders”;
f. Linked readers of Bitcoin Forum to an article on another website that stated:
“Aimed for usual customers, Veritas are still not protected from speculation,
especially in the long run perspective. It will continue to be a tradeable token.
Nevertheless, buying Veritas tokens now during the ICO could be a great
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investment ‘in the future’ while enjoying the services they provide. In any
case, it is a win-win deal”;
g. Stated on the Blog that Middleton had “given a lot of thought to the topic of
valuation with regards to investment”; that he had “an excellent public track
record over the last 10 years, and even more of a record in private
performance”; that he had “decided to focus [his] expertise and experience on
the burgeoning digital token ecosystem by creating a Digital Asset Valuation
Framework and issuing tokens to support it”; that investment returns in the
digital asset space are comparable to those in the regular stock market and that
the former “outperform equity markets by a wide margin”; and that “our token
offering is actually ongoing now”;
h. Stated that “at the end of the day, if you produce a superior product and it’s
recognized by your constituency, [it] is manifested in a higher token price”;
i. Told readers of the Blog on April 2 that they could expect to trade the VERI
Tokens on “major exchanges”; and
j. Explained in a May 24 YouTube video that “it is not about how much that
will come from a token sale, it should be about how much value is
generated—what we produce in terms of revenues, in terms of margins, in
terms of profits, in terms of market share, and in terms of furthering the
economic interest of our stakeholders, which are those who use Veritaseum.”
57. Defendants continued to convey that the economic substance of purchasing a
VERI token was the making of an investment in a common enterprise with a reasonable
expectation of profits based on their efforts after the purported “close” of the ICO on May 26,
2017. For example:
a. Middleton persistently touted the price increases and returns to early VERI
purchasers in various tweets in June 2017 during the period in which he was
selling VERI to investors in private over-the-counter transactions;
b. Defendants boasted about VERI’s price increases when announcing supposed
“deals” between Veritaseum and would-be clients, including on July 4, 2017,
when Middleton tweeted that VERI had risen 65% since the announcement of
a supposed deal with a stock exchange;
c. Middleton responded on June 7 to a Bitcoin Forum user’s argument that
purchasing VERI was risky because Defendants held 98% of the supply by
noting that the supply was being used for deals that had “caused VERI[’s]
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price to more than double,” that he had “many more deals in the pipeline,” and
that he “would expect a pop with each deal”;
d. Middleton wrote in later July that the “execution of management and the team
play a prominent role” in the value of VERI, which was “evident in our
marketing materials” such that “the value of the team is what you are
purchasing VERI”; and
e. Defendants told investors that they were working to get VERI listed on digital
asset trading platforms, including in an email from Middleton responding to
an investor query concerning how the investor might “cash out.”
58. Cognizant of the federal securities laws’ application to VERI, Defendants so-
called “utility” token, claiming that the VERI tokens’ supposed uses were variously as (1) a “pre-
paid fee” that could be exchanged for “consulting and advisory services” and used to buy
“unlimited access to research,” (2) a “universal key to gain access to Veritaseum P2P OTC
Direct Contracts,” and (3) a means to access “Veritaseum Legacy Asset Exposure Pools.”
59. Despite these claims, none of the purported software functionalities existed at the
time of the Offering. Defendants did not have any functioning Ethereum-based application or
any “legacy asset exposure pools,” nor did they specify what the purported consulting services
were. Though they made research reports (outsourced to financial analysts in India) available,
the reports were not available during the Offering’s ICO phase.
60. By December 2017, purchasers had ultimately tendered only 23.5 of the
approximately 2 million VERI tokens sold in the Offering in exchange for research reports, with
no more than 75 tokens exchanged for research (or any other “services”) through June 2018.
61. The volume of VERI trades on EtherDelta, by contrast, hit the tens of millions in
the summer of 2017, fueled in large part by Defendants’ touting VERI’s increased price.
62. Indeed, investors routinely let Middleton know that they were purchasing VERI to
speculate on its price. One user asked for “clear instructions [on] how can we invest in your
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project,” and another told Middleton leading up to the Offering that he wanted to hold “the
veritas token as an investment for the long term” and asked if the token would be listed on
exchanges. Middleton replied yes.
(b) Defendants’ Material Misrepresentations and Omissions to VERI Purchasers
63. Middleton deceived the public about VERI from the outset of the Offering.
64. He began by misleadingly stating in a video and in the Google Presentation that
he had abandoned the Bitcoin Software project because of “regulatory concerns.”
65. In fact, Middleton ceased the Bitcoin Software project because he had run out of
money, had received nothing but negative responses to his supposed patent applications, had not
communicated with any regulatory body—government or otherwise—about potential “concerns”
with the Bitcoin software, and was, generally speaking, not able to deliver on his lofty promises
that the software would be worth $20 billion.
66. More importantly, the central device underlying Defendants’ deceptive scheme
and material misstatements was to persistently blur the line between the rudimentary “product”
Veritaseum had developed (the Bitcoin Software, which replicated swaps based on changes in
value of underlying assets), and the “revolutionary” products they hoped to develop.
67. In statements before and during the Offering, Middleton persistently misled
individuals into thinking that Defendants had existing products that would “revolutionize” the
markets when, in reality, Defendants merely had an idea and stalled patent applications.
68. The Google Presentation, for example, contained a link to Brochure 3, claiming
that users of the supposed software could effect trades by making clicks from their phones. The
Google Presentation also falsely stated that the new “platform is functional now as beta.”
69. The Google Presentation, like Brochure 2, described Veritaseum’s platform as a
“Decentralized Autonomous Organization,” or “DAO,” and stated that Veritaseum could
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“disintermediate $1.635+ Quadrillion” in financial transactions and could “match nearly any
bank, exchange or brokerage’s investor.”
70. Similarly, in pre-Offering YouTube posts and posts on the Blog, Middleton touted
the “usable” and “stable” software platform, including a post on April 1 that Defendants had a
“working, beta product already developed.”
71. In another YouTube video, Middleton stated the following: “With Veritas you
create a contract, you send it out to the blockchain, someone else accepts the contract, you have a
deal. These contracts could be for exposure, and investing, transfer of value, simple agreements,
letters of credit, transfer of information, anything that can be considered value.”
72. The Term Sheet similarly and misleadingly stated that the software being sold
“enable[s] individuals and entities to transact directly with each other . . . without brokerages,
banks or traditional exchanges.”
73. On April 26, 2017, Middleton stated that Veritaseum was one of the first entities
“to apply smart contracts and blockchain tech to the capital markets” and that the company “has
several patents pending as well as an existing, functional codebase.”
74. Middleton also wrote to media and bloggers that Veritaseum “had a functional
beta product [and] multiple patent apps (with priority dates before the big boys).”
75. On May 8, 2017, in a posting on the FinTech website “Zero Hedge,” Middleton
falsely referred to “existing and future blockchain-based software products” (emphasis added)
that could be used with VERI.
76. As Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded, these statements were, at best,
materially misleading. Users could not effect trades with their phones and there was no
functional, Ethereum blockchain-based beta application. There were no “existing” products that
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VERI holders could use with their ERC-20 tokens (the Bitcoin Software, no longer operational,
worked only on the Bitcoin blockchain). And no user could enter into any contract with a third
party by purchasing VERI.
77. Nor did Middleton have any basis to state that his (non-existent) products would
tap into “quadrillions” of funds or replace major financial institutions any time in the foreseeable
future, if ever. His statements were aimed at taking advantage of potential investors’ general
lack of familiarity, but keen interest in, the nascent FinTech industry, and nothing more.
78. Nor did Defendants limit their fraudulently misleading misstatements and
omissions to Veritaseum’s products. During and after the ICO phase, they also lied to potential
investors about the use to which Defendants would put the VERI that did not sell during the ICO.
79. During and after the ICO phase, several investors expressed concerns (in direct
emails to Middleton, on Bitcoin Forum, and elsewhere) about potential dilution and a drop in
VERI tokens’ price given that Middleton held the overwhelming majority of VERI Tokens.
80. To assuage these concerns, Middleton repeatedly stated that he would only use
VERI tokens not sold during the ICO phase for bulk sales to institutions and high-net-worth
individuals interested in employing VERI in connection with its supposed products.
81. For example, on May 3, 2017, Middleton wrote in Bitcoin Forum that “[u]nsold
tokens go to our reserve to sate future demand. Our project is ultimately aimed at the buy side of
Wall Street . . . We expect to sell tokens in large blocks to buyside institutions such as hedge
funds, pension funds, family offices and high net worth individuals as well as advisory firms.”
82. On July 2, 2017, Middleton wrote to a digital asset trading platform on which he
was attempting to have VERI traded that “tokens that were not purchased in the initial sale are
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researved [sic] for sale to institutions, family offices and UHNW [ultra-high-net-worth]
individuals, usually for the purpose of building custom solutions.”
83. On June 7, 2017, Middleton told an investor in writing that the remaining VERI
were “reserved for bulk institutional purchase and incentive comp only.”
84. In fact, from the day after the ICO “closed” on May 28, 2017, though February
2018, Defendants sold at least approximately 27,500 VERI to any purchaser who wanted to buy
it, without regard to whether the investor was an “institution” or “high-net-worth individual,”
and regardless of how they intended to use the VERI.
85. Defendants also used VERI tokens to pay developers and other employees, and to
resolve the claims that Colored Coin purchasers may have had against Veritaseum.
86. After the ICO phase, and as they were continuing to sell VERI, Defendants began
misleading the market about the supposed business deals and sales of VERI that they had made.
87. For example, on June 19, 2017, Middleton tweeted: “$34,873,719 worth of
$VERI has been sold to institutions, HNW, etc. since 6/1, and VERI price > ~6x[.]” Then,
between July 3 and July 5, Middleton stated that he had entered into two big global deal, and that
an “UHNW” had purchased $1 million worth of VERI.
88. In reality, the claims about the $34 million and $1 million invested had no factual
basis. No such sales were made, and Veritaseum did not enter into two big global deals.
89. The import of these statements was that Middleton was creating value for holders
of VERI. Middleton posted on Twitter on June 16, 2017: “Expect more demand for $VERI as
institutions/startups come on board.”
90. That same day, the Defendants also tweeted, “Who’s investigating bulk $VERI
purchase: expanding airline, medical marijuana startup, electric motorcycle startup.” In reality,
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none of these entities ever purchased VERI. A few had approached Defendants to seek funding,
but not to purchase tokens.
91. Middleton also announced on Twitter that a “[c]ustomer made large $VERI
purchase, retaining us to ‘VERItize’ medical biz, explore business processes thru blockchain[.]”
In fact, Defendants were never hired to “VERItize” a medical business.
92. On June 30, 2017, Middleton falsely stated that he had “made three deals in the
last 24 hours, one was with one of the largest stock exchanges in the Caribbean . . . one was a
UHNW individual (starting with $1-$1.5M purchase), and one with a sovereign nation.” In fact,
the latter two “deals” do not appear to exist.
93. On July 7, 2017, Middleton falsely stated in an Internet forum that the “biggest
visible distribution from ‘reggie’s wallet’ of [VERI] tokens thus far would be the proposed
[Caribbean stock exchange] deal,” even though the exchange had not bought a single VERI.
94. Finally, following the Offering’s ICO phase, Middleton promoted the rise in
VERI’s trading price on the EtherDelta platform. On June 5, 2017, Middleton tweeted that
VERI “currently trading on [EtherDelta] as 3rd highest in volume, price up 5x[.]” On June 7,
2017, Defendants tweeted that VERI had risen “1893% since last week[.]” Defendants omitted
the material information that, as set forth below, Middleton himself manipulated the price of
VERI on EtherDelta on June 4, 2017, causing it to rise over 300%, and to give the appearance
that there was increased interest in VERI.
95. Defendants’ misstatements to the market had a marked effect on the price of
VERI, which rose exponentially from their ICO sales prices of $1.60 to $8 to over $300 by the
end of July 2017, including dramatic rises of about 100% on or around the days of Middleton’s
material misstatements about supposedly large sales of VERI or explosive business deals.
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96. The importance of Defendants’ misstatements to investors is further evidenced by
investors’ responses on the Internet to them, including, as an example, an investor noting on June
10, 2017, that someone “wanted out of [VERI] they could easily sell for 5x profit right now,”
and another parroting Brochure 2’s claim that VERI had access to “$1.635 Quadrillion.”
97. Defendants knew or recklessly disregarded that their statements about the sales of
VERI Tokens and the non-existent deals were false because Middleton was the sole individual
who marketed VERI and had control of the VERI Tokens on the Ethereum blockchain.
C. Middleton’s Manipulation of VERI
98. Middleton controlled an Ethereum blockchain address identified by a 42-character
alphanumeric string that began with “0xfB90.”2
99. On May 31, 2017, Middleton posted on Bitcoin Forum that he was “Testing
EtherDelta as a method of distributing post-Offering Veritas tokens.”
100. The first six ever trades of VERI on EtherDelta—six sales of VERI at the set
price of 0.1 ETH per VERI Token—were all conducted by the fB90 address that very day.
101. On June 1, 2017, Middleton emailed Employee One a spreadsheet, commenting
that “the EtherDelta market is not accurate because of the very, very low volume. I will try to
push more volume in.” Middleton went on to say that, notwithstanding the low volume, the total
value of his approximately 98 million VERI Tokens and their current price on EtherDelta “brings
a smile” to his face and that “[t]his time next month, [he]’ll probably have all (as in every single)
hip hop and rap star/producer beat in net worth.”
102. On June 2, a user posted on Bitcoin Forum that the “EtherDelta exchange price
for VERI/ETH [was] going the wrong way at the moment.”
This address is referred to as “fB90,” and references to other Ethereum blockchain addresses follow that
same naming convention.
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103. Middleton responded on June 3: “We set up the EtherDelta VERI ticker as an
experiment. Please be aware that EtherDelta has very little traffic and liquidity.”
104. On June 4, 2017, the fB90 address conducted 52 purchases of VERI on
EtherDelta. To effect these transactions, fB90 spent nearly 337 ETH (over $80,000 worth at the
time) to purchase 4,769 VERI in various-sized transactions at an average premium of 51% to the
last non-fB90-traded price. By the end of the day, the price of VERI on EtherDelta had
increased 315% as a result of the trading by fB90, which constituted approximately 82.6% of the
volume of VERI’s trading on EtherDelta that day.
105. On June 7, 2017, Middleton noted to Employee One in an email that each VERI
was now worth $79.55. He wrote: “This means the argument can be made that we’re multi-
billionaires if we can push enough liquidity through EtherDelta and deliver on our value
proposition,” and listed his net worth at $2.36 billion in light of his $2.34 billion worth of VERI.
106. Middleton then touted the VERI tokens’ price increase in a series of tweets:
a. On June 5, he tweeted “price up 5x” and “3rd highest in volume” with respect
to VERI trading on EtherDelta, and directed readers to EtherDelta to purchase
b. On June 7, he tweeted that VERI was the “most successful offering in the
history of the nascent crypto industry, up 1893% since last week”; and
c. On June 9, he tweeted: “Veritas software sold for $1.71 per token on 1st day
of sale. Most recent transaction was $65.40, 4,783% in 40 days. Value
107. Middleton’s manipulative trading on June 4, 2017 directly benefitted his bottom
line because he owned approximately 98 million VERI tokens—tokens he could and did
ultimately did sell thereafter, both on EtherDelta and in private sales to investors at prices pegged
to EtherDelta’s trading price.
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D. Defendants’ Misuse of Investor Funds
(a) Defendants Misappropriate and Commingle Offering Proceeds for Personal Use
108. Defendants never disclosed to investors during the Offering, in the Term Sheet or
otherwise, that Middleton would pay himself a “salary.” Nevertheless, during the Offering,
Middleton began converting proceeds into dollars and spending them, at least in part, on personal
expenses, or commingling them with personal assets.
109. Between May 12, 2017, and July 19, 2017, the Defendants converted ETH
received in the Offering into approximately $285,000. Middleton transferred at least $75,000 of
those amounts to his personal account. Middleton converted thousands of ETH into millions of
dollars after July, 2017, and used at least a portion of unknown, undisclosed amounts for
personal expenses or commingled such proceeds with his own assets.
110. Similarly, in late June 2017 Defendants received $1 million from Investor One, a
connected political figure, to further fund his business.
111. Middleton spent most of the $1 million from Investor One in personal expenses,
including to make a $100,000 campaign contribution, with only approximately another $100,000
going to Veritaseum’s business, and nearly $450,000 directly to Middleton’s personal accounts.
112. Later in 2017, Defendants paid Investor One back half of Investor One’s loan
using Offering proceeds, and hired Investor One as a Veritaseum employee.
(b) Defendants Fund a Commodities Venture with Offering Proceeds
113. On or about August 7, 2018, Defendants began using Ve Assets to offer and sell
“VeGold” precious metal-backed tokens. Although VeGold’s marketing materials focused on
tokens backed by gold, Defendants also offered tokens backed by palladium and silver.
Middleton advertised the “soft beta launch” of the program on Twitter and linked to a
presentation on Veritaseum’s website (the “VeGold Presentation”).
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114. The VeGold Presentation advertised VeGold as allowing a transferable,
negotiable title to ownership in the underlying precious metal and allowing the holder of the
token to redeem the token for the physical precious metal or to sell the token back to Veritaseum.
115. Holders of VERI tokens can tender VERI to Defendants for a slight discount on
the purchase of the VeGold.
116. Defendants misappropriated at least $600,000 worth of ETH raised in the
Offering to purchase the physical precious metals underlying the VeGold tokens. In addition,
ETH raised from the sale of the VeGold tokens was automatically routed by the smart contract
enabling the sale of the tokens to an account in Middleton’s name at a digital asset trading
platform. In other words, Defendants used VERI investor funds to purchase the inventory to be
sold by Ve Assets, but the proceeds of such sales flowed to Middleton rather than to Veritaseum.
117. The VeGold smart contract also triggered an Ethereum blockchain address
holding reserves of VeGold to issue VeGold to purchasers.
118. Similarly, when VeGold holders redeemed their VeGold, they were paid in ETH
from an address holding the proceeds of the Offering.
(c) Defendants Further Transfer VERI Investor Assets
119. On approximately July 30, 2019, the Commission staff notified Defendants’
counsel that it was likely to recommend that the Commission approve an enforcement action.
120. Shortly thereafter, on or about July 30, 2019, Middleton transferred 10,000 ETH
from the Offering to an Ethereum blockchain address, “2483.” That address then sent a total of
750 ETH to the VeGold smart contract, which then sent it to Middleton’s personal account at the
digital asset platform and also transferred an equivalent amount of VeGold tokens back to 2483.
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121. Those VeGold tokens were sent to blockchain addresses controlled by unknown
122. On August 5, 2019, Commission staff requested through Defendants’ counsel that
Defendants voluntarily agree to not engage in further dissipation of the Offering proceeds,
including through the purchase of precious metals. Defendants, through counsel, declined.
FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5
123. The Commission repeats, realleges and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1
through 122, as though fully set forth herein.
124. By virtue of the foregoing, Defendants, directly or indirectly, by the use of the
means and instrumentalities of interstate commerce or of the mails, in connection with the
purchase or sale of securities, knowingly or recklessly, employed devices, schemes, or artifices
to defraud, and engaged in acts, practices, and courses of business which operate or would
operate as a fraud or deceit; and Defendants made untrue statements of material fact and omitted
to state material facts necessary in order to make the statements made, in light of the
circumstances under which they were made, not misleading.
125. By virtue of the foregoing, Defendants violated, and unless restrained and
enjoined will continue to violate, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. § 78j(b)], and
Rule 10b-5 [17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5] promulgated thereunder.
SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Violations of Securities Act Section 17(a)
126. The Commission repeats, realleges and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1
through 122, as though fully set forth herein.
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127. By virtue of the foregoing, in the offer or sale of securities, by the use of the
means or instruments of transportation or communication in interstate commerce or by use of the
mails, directly or indirectly: (a) Defendants employed devices, schemes or artifices to defraud;
(b) Defendants obtained money or property by means of an untrue statement of a material fact or
omitted to state a material fact necessary in order to make the statements made, in light of the
circumstances under which they were made, not misleading; and/or (c) Defendants engaged in
transactions, practices or courses of business which operate or would operate as a fraud or deceit
upon the purchaser.
128. By reason of the conduct described above, Defendants, directly or indirectly
violated and, unless enjoined will again violate, Section 17(a) of the Securities Act [15 U.S.C.
THIRD CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Violations of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act
129. The Commission repeats, realleges and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1
through 122, as though fully set forth herein.
130. By virtue of the foregoing, (a) without a registration statement in effect as to that
security, Defendants, directly and indirectly, made use of the means and instruments of
transportation or communications in interstate commerce and of the mails to sell securities
through the use of means of a prospectus, and (b) made use of the means and instruments of
transportation or communication in interstate commerce and of the mails to offer to sell through
the use of a prospectus, securities as to which no registration statement had been filed.
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131. By reason of the conduct described above, Defendants, directly or indirectly
violated and, unless enjoined will again violate, Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act [15
U.S.C. §§ 77e(a) and e(c)].
FOURTH CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Violations of Section 9(a)(2) of the Exchange Act
132. The Commission repeats, realleges, and incorporates by reference paragraphs 1
through 122, as though fully set forth herein.
133. On or about June 4, 2017, Middleton, directly or indirectly, singly or in concert,
by use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce, or of any facility of
any national securities exchange or any member of a national securities exchange, effected, alone
or with one or more other persons, a series of transactions in a security, which was not a
government security or a security-based swap agreement with respect to a government security,
creating actual or apparent trading in such security and raising the price of such security, for the
purpose of inducing the purchase or sale of such security by others.
134. By virtue of the foregoing, Defendant Middleton, directly or indirectly, singly or
in concert, violated, and unless enjoined and restrained will continue to violate Section 9(a)(2) of
the Exchange Act [15 U.S.C. § 78i(a)(2)].
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, the Commission respectfully requests that the Court grant the following
An Order temporarily and preliminarily freezing all of Defendants’ assets;
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An Order temporarily and preliminarily enjoining and restraining Defendants, and any
person or entity acting at their direction or on their behalf, from destroying, altering, concealing
or otherwise interfering with the access of the Commission to relevant documents;
An Order providing that the Commission may take expedited discovery;
An Order appointing a qualified third-party as an independent intermediary that can
escrow all digital assets in the possession or control of Defendants.
A Final Judgment permanently restraining and enjoining (A) Defendants, their agents,
servants, employees and attorneys and other persons in active concert or participation with them
who receive actual notice of the injunction by personal service or otherwise from (i) violating
Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act [15 U.S.C. §§ 77e(a), 77e(c), 77q(a)]; (ii)
violating Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, [15 U.S.C. §§ 78j(b)] and Rule 10b-5 thereunder
[17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5]; and (B) Defendant Middleton, his agents, servants, employees and
attorneys and other persons in active concert or participation with him who receive actual notice
of the injunction by personal service or otherwise from violating Section 9(a)(2) of the Exchange
Act [15 U.S.C. § 78i(a)(2)];
A Final Judgment directing each of the Defendants to disgorge all ill-gotten gains,
including prejudgment interest thereon;
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A Final Judgment permanently barring Defendant Middleton from serving as an officer
or director ofany public company pursuant to Section 20(e)ofthe Securities Act[15 U.S.C.
§ 77t(e)] and Section 21(d)(2)ofthe Exchange Act[15 U.S.C.§ 78u(d)(2)];
A Final Judgment prohibiting Defendants from participating in any offering ofdigital
asset securities pursuantto Section 21(d)(5)ofthe Exchange Act[15 U.S.C.§ 78u(d)(5)];
A Final Judgment directing the Defendants to pay civil money penalties pursuantto
Section 20(d)ofthe Securities Act[15 U.S.C.§ 77t(d)],and Section 21(d)(3)ofthe Exchange
Act[15 U.S.C.§ 78u(d)(3)];and
Such other and further reliefas this Court deems appropriate and necessary for the benefit
Dated:New York,New York
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Lara S. Mehraban
200 Vesey Street,Suite 400
New York,New York 10281-1022
Attorneys for Plaintiff
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